Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Remembering the ’80s

Filed under: — stan @ 11:30 pm

On Friday night, we started off our long weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. They were having a “Totally ’80s” nostalgia show with Berlin, The Fixx, The B-52s, and The Human League, so we joined about 18,000 other 50-mumble-year-olds and we partied like it was 1983.

Parking at the Hollywood Bowl is the stuff of nightmares, so we did the un-L.A. thing and rode the train. Riding on the Metro, as it were. That worked out well, except that Kathleen got stuck in traffic on the way to the subway station, so we were a bit late. When we got there, Berlin was already playing… “The Metro“. And Terri Nunn still looks great, even 30 years later. They played a short set, and then Terri was the MC for the remainder of the evening.

Second up was The Fixx. I wasn’t all that familiar with them, aside from what was played on KROQ back in the day. But they still looked good, and the played all the songs we knew.

The B-52s were up third, and they stole the show. Fred Schneider has gotten old, but they can still rock. Funny thing was, “Party out of Bounds” just doesn’t sound the same when it’s played by a bunch of middle-agers. Still, they did a good long set, and as always, we knew all the songs. They had the crowd on their feet, which is not always an easy thing to do at our age. I was happy that I’d finally had a chance to see them play, since I missed my first opportunity, back in1980. I was in college at the time, and they were playing at a tiny little club in Houston, Texas. But the show was on a Sunday night, and it was the Sunday night before my first big exam in Physics 311 – Quantum Mechanics. At the time, I thought it was probably a good idea to skip the show and study. So now, 30-something years later, I finally got to see them.

Finally, The Human League rounded out the show. They did all right, although they played a couple of actual new songs. They should know that nobody goes to a nostalgia show to hear or see anything new. We’re there to relive old memories, and quietly weep for our lost youth. Still, they did a good show, and all around it was a fun evening.

Some things don’t change. We could still smell pot wafting by on the breeze. On the other hand, I’d be willing to bet that there was nobody there who got so drunk that they puked on their shoes, unlike if we’d had the same crowd and bands at a show back in, say, 1983. Another thing I thought was funny was seeing the glowing screens of hundreds of digital cameras in the crowd. It looked a lot like the old days, only with cameras instead of lighters. And I’m told now that there’s a ‘lighter app’ for the iPhone now, just so we can combine the best of old and new. Heh.

All told, it was a fun evening.


Once more to the Magic Kingdom

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

For the past three years, I’ve made a point of taking Lucinda to Disneyland just before school starts. Partly because it’s a nice way to end the summer, and partly because our friend who works there has a pass that doesn’t work during the high days of summer. So today was the day. We went twice last year, and those were the days when we got Lucinda to ride California Screamin’ for the first time. And the second time last year was the day when we rode it 21 times. That was a very absurd, but also very fun day.

Lucinda is getting older now, so it’s not the same as it was a few years ago. This time we went with her friend London, and my girlfriend Kathleen. That way, I would have company, and the two girls could go off on their own and do whatever they want. So where I used to have a whole set of pictures of her on the various rides, now I just have a few. I got one when we got there, just before we went in. We ran into them around mid-day at California Screamin’, so I got a picture of them on the front row of the train, coming around the last turn. And then I got one more at the end of the day, when we had our traditional dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. They told us about what they did and what rides the rode, but I have no pictures.

Kathleen and I had a nice time. We rode Space Mountain four times, California Screamin’ four times, and we also got to ride the newly-redone Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates. So we were not lacking for fun. We also got to see the Phineas and Ferb show, which is new. My friend Nick at work is an old friend of the creator of Phineas and Ferb. So I’ve heard a bit of the history behind the show and the characters. And I’m sure that the fact that there is now a show at Disneyland means that Dan is sleeping on a very big pile of money now. And that it’s well-deserved. We like Phineas and Ferb.

Overall, it was a very fun day.


Well, this certainly made for an interesting day

Filed under: — stan @ 8:16 pm

There was a fairly large earthquake in Virginia today. Magnitude 5.8, which was strong enough to be felt as far north as Toronto. This is an unusual event, and it brought the news trucks out to the office for the first time in quite a while.

My Pet Project told me about the earthquake first, with a message that it had been detected by the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center’s seismic network. Given that this was an unusual location for an earthquake that large, I wanted to get independent verification that it was real. So I had a look at Twitter. And sure enough, there were people talking about it already. So I had a look at the web servers to see that they were doing all right, and I checked on the ENS (aka My Pet Project) database to be sure it was doing all right. Then I headed across the street.

Channel 7 was the first to arrive. Seeing that first news truck after an earthquake is like seeing the first robin of spring. Soon, we had a large collection of them parked all around the building, and they filled up the media room for the quick press conference that was organized for the occasion.

It’s always entertaining watching the media frenzy after an earthquake. So it made for a fun afternoon. And ENS picked up over 2,600 new subscribers today. It still boggles my mind that something I invented is being used by more than 280,000 people.


gonzo gustation

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

Some years ago, I read a very funny book called Eat this Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit. It was hilarious. So when Kathleen found out that there was going to be an IFOCE-sanctioned eating contest right here in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, I knew we had to go see it.

The contest was gyoza eating. The time was 10 minutes. The record was somewhere over 200. So this promised to be quite a spectacle. When we got there, the announcer was stirring up the crowd and getting everyone ready for the main event. There were two tables. One for amateurs, and one for the professional eaters. One seat at the amateur table had been reserved to be auctioned off for charity, and the winner paid $60 to sit in it.

They had a big parade and introduction of the pros. All were ranked in the top 50 in competitive eating. Like professional wrestlers, they all made their own distinctive entrances, and each had a theme song. The eating hadn’t even started, and this was already a tremendously entertaining spectacle.

Then it was time for the contest. The announcer counted down, and the eating commenced. And it was epic. I’d figured out that they would have to average something like one gyoza every 2.5 seconds to even have a chance at winning. But I really had no idea what that would look like. But I saw that that translated into the gurgitators stuffing many gyoza into their mouths at once. The chewed a little bit and then washed it all down with a little bit of water or whatever was their drink of choice.

One thing that I think would have made this better would have been a large clock to count down the time. The announcer counted down, first by minutes, and then by seconds the last minute, but I think that having a large clock would have really helped the drama. In any event, he counted down the last 10 seconds and called time. Apparently, the rules allow for the contestants to stuff as much food as they want into their mouths before time is called. As long as they swallow it, it’s all all right. So the final seconds had all the contestants stuffing massive numbers of gyoza into their mouths, and they ended up looking like demented chipmunks with their bulging cheeks.

Along the way, only one contestant suffered a ‘reversal of fortune‘, and that was the guy who had won the charity auction for the final seat at the amateur table. Well, regardless, he had a unique experience.

When it was all over, they tallied the results, and the winner had eaten 264 gyosa. That works out to an average of one gyoza every 2.36 seconds for the 10 minutes of the contest. Just the thought of that makes me queasy. At last, I’ve found a sport that’s even more insane than the one I like to compete in.

It was a fun little outing.


Downtown art

Filed under: — stan @ 11:42 pm

It’s Art Walk night in downtown Los Angeles again. We missed it last month, but this time we didn’t have any conflicts. So Lucinda and I went downtown for it. We met up with Kathleen, who brought Melissa and Emily along.

The first order of business was to find the fabled gourmet food trucks. Every time we go, it seems like they are in a different place. This time, they were all in one parking lot at the north end of the gallery district. We wandered around, looking at all the choices. Kathleen and I both decided to have the Guerilla Fried Chicken. It was a bit odd, and very good. Never had fried chicken with bearnaise sauce before. We followed that up with an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel ice cream. Yum.

After that, we got down to wandering the galleries and looking at the art. As always, there was a wide variety of things on display, ranging from meh to good to very disturbing. I like the disturbing ones. We wandered around until the galleries started closing down, which was around 10. It was a fun little Thursday night outing.


Top five

Filed under: — stan @ 2:47 pm

A couple months ago, I found an article in the L.A. Times on “The Ten Best Houses in Southern Calfornia“. when I was reading, it, I realized that we could go see five of them on a single bike ride. I made up a route for this, and I test-rode it back in June. So today was the first time that I took the bike club group on it.

The first one was the Gamble House, which we pass all the time. Then we rode down into Silver Lake and then up the hill next to Griffith Park. Some of the guys missed the turn on Vermont and rode off up the hill into the park. I figured they’d realize that they’d missed a turn when they got to the Observatory. So I just waited down on Vermont. While I was waiting for them to come back, Carla showed up. She had overslept and gotten a late start. Finally, the rest of the group came back down the hill, and we all headed up to the Ennis House.

The third house was the Hollyhock House. That was an easy side trip. Then we headed across Hollywood, passing a sightseeing van that was stopped to look at the Michael Jackson Auditorium at the elementary school on Gardner Ave.

The Schindler House on Kings Road in West Hollywood was the fourth stop on the tour. Then we rode back into Hollywood and up toward the hills. We stopped off at the Studs Theater, which used to be the flagship of the old Pussycat chain back in the ’70s. David had to try his feet in John Holmes’ footprints in the concrete in front of the theater.

We rode up Nicholls Canyon to get to Mulholland Drive. Then we took a short side trip up Torreyson Dr to see the Chemosphere. That was the fifth and final stop on the house tour. Then we rode the rest of the way down Mulholland and down into Burbank for a snack at Priscilla’s. The rest of the ride was a direct path home by way of Glendale and Eagle Rock. We had a bit of fun right at the end when a guy on an electric-assisted bike passed us. We got on behind him and he motor-paced us for several miles, which was nice.

It was a fun little ride.

52 miles.


Hollywood Sightseeing with the Krell

Filed under: — stan @ 6:29 pm

This afternoon, Kathleen and I went to Hollywood to see the exhibit at the Linwood Dunn Theater gallery. They were showing props and other artifacts from the 1956 movie, “Forbidden Planet“. In keeping with the theme from last Thursday, this movie was based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

We saw some of the equipment they used to make the all-electronic music for the movie, which was pretty unusual for 1956. We also saw some miniature models used in the filming, as well as the full-sized Robbie the Robot suit.

After this, we went to Hollywood Forever to do a bit more sightseeing. We went to Hollywood Forever, and I got some new entries for my Graves photo collection.

And on the way home, I saw some minor words of wisdom tie-wrapped to a pole.


Hamlet, but not in the original Klingon

Filed under: — stan @ 10:50 pm

Our adventure for tonight was a trip back to Griffith Park to see the Independent Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet. This was actually the first time I’ve ever seen this particular play, and I never realized just how pervasive it is in our culture.

There is the story of the woman who read Hamlet for the first time and said, “I don’t see why people admire that play so. It is nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together.”

—Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare

The show was well done. Even though I’d only read a brief synopsis ahead of time, I was able to follow the story, and it was entertaining. So this made for a nice little evening adventure.


Nope – no aliens here…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:11 pm

Tonight, Kathleen and I went to the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles for a talk by Annie Jacobsen about her new book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. The format of the talk was a conversation between her and M.G. Lord, author of Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science. We’d been to one of these events once before, when we went to see John Waters last year.

The talk was very interesting and entertaining. There were even three of her sources in the audience: Ed Lovick, Ken Collins, and Wayne Pendleton. They were engineers and a test pilot on the A-12 “Oxcart” project, which was the CIA precursor to the Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. So as you might imagine, they had some good stories to tell her for the book. Apparently, a lot of this was classified until pretty recently. The fact that the CIA was actively designing stealth aircraft in 1957 was kept secret until the late 1990s.

All told, it was an entertaining evening. And as a little bonus, we got to look across the street from the library and gaze up at the U.S. Bank tower and think about just how much it’s going to hurt when we go to climb the stairs there in September.


The Captains

Filed under: — stan @ 11:35 pm

Tonight, Kathleen and I went over to Hollywood Forever for a special screening of “The Captains“. This is a documentary by William Shatner, where he goes to meet and interview all of the actors who have played starship captains in all the incarnations of “Star Trek“. It was a chance for him to confront and embrace what is surely his legacy, and to talk with the others and share their feelings on their participation in “Star Trek”, which will likely be the one thing they will all be remembered best for having done.

As one would expect, there were lots of fans there in “Star Trek” costumes. I don’t have a costume, but I brought along my tribble. And each incarnation of the show and each captain had its own set of fans. Even after all these years, it’s still an amazing thing that it took on a life of its own and became such a pervasive part of our culture.

William Shatner was there to introduce the film. Beforehand, I saw him in the middle of a little scrum of photographer, along with Henry Rollins. (WTF? Henry Rollins? What’s he doing here?) In his introduction to the film, Shatner spoke of how strange it was to be introducing this film at the cemetery in Hollywood. Looking over the back wall, we could see the sound stage where they filmed the original “Star Trek”, nearly 50 years ago. He talked about how he originally came to the part of Captain Kirk, and how nobody really thought the show would amount to much in the long run. And his having to come to terms with the fact that that one role has in many ways come to define his life. Apparently, it’s been an interesting journey.

The film itself was very entertaining. The other captains all came into it with at least a bit more warning that they were doing something that would be career-defining, since they all came along after “Star Trek” had become a worldwide phenomenon. Each one had a slightly different take on how their character should work, and hearing their reminiscences was a lot of fun.

In the end, Shatner came to terms with his legacy, which was the main reason he made this film. It was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it.

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